For a 5,000-star hotel stay, head to treehouse resort
By Erik Nilsson
Updated: 2008-04-10 07:11

There probably isn't any place in China that resembles an Ewok settlement more than Sanya Nanshan Treehouse Resort and Beach Club.

But rather than being home to the pint-sized, bear-like buddies of the Star Wars heroes, these rustic structures in Hainan province's Nanshan Cultural Tourist Zone are meant for habitation by tourists.

Nestled in a tropical thicket just a skipping stone's throw from a virgin beach, some of these dwellings offer vistas of the 108-m-tall bronze Guanyin Buddha. Built in the tourism zone's Buddhism Culture Park in 2005, the bronze likeness, which is 15 m taller than the Statue of Liberty, has the extraordinarily particular distinction of being the world's largest Buddha statue standing in the sea.

Staying in one of the resort's four elevated edifices provides a Robinson Crusoe-like experience for those who love "roughin' it" that's difficult to find in a country so enchanted with the luxuries of five-star hotels. As Nanshan Treehouse Resort's American mastermind, self-described "anti-architect" David Greenberg, says: "Laying out there and looking up at the sky makes for a 5,000-star hotel experience."

Each of the houses, which are made mostly of planking and raw timber, is as unique as the trees in which they're built.

Cradled in the branches of a knotted tamarind tree above a sand dune leading to the seaside, Big Beach in the Sky Treehouse can only be accessed via a rope-and-plank suspension bridge. The two-story structure accommodates six.

Larger groups can stay in the Hawaiian Hale Hotel Treehouse, which accommodates up to 30 people in seven separate spaces spread among three levels.

Beach Club Treehouse is ideal for couples, offering romantic views of the South China Sea, while Guan Yin Spa Treehouse offers a loft with a bed for a third person.

The grounds also feature a barbecue pit and rope swing. But just beyond the woods are the three parks of the 5,000-acre tourism zone, and the tree house compound makes for a great base camp - camp being the operative word here - for exploring them.

In addition to the Buddhism Culture Park, there's the Hainan Cultural Customs Park, and the Felicity and Longevity Culture Park.

A quick jaunt up the road from the tree houses takes visitors to Nanshan Temple.

Situated on a 66-acre compound and covering 10-acres of floor space, the temple is the largest Buddhist preaching site in the world. It is populated with many Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907) relics and modern Buddhas, and it is here that visitors can see what local tourism authorities say is the world's most valuable Buddha statue - a 3.8-m-tall rendering of the Guanyin covered with 100 kg of gold and valued at 200 million yuan ($286,000). The sculpture stands upon a jade base and wears a crown encrusted with 120 carats of South African diamonds and other precious stones.

Hainan Cultural Customs Park was designed to showcase the diversity of the province's culture, particularly the customs of the Miao, Li and Hui ethnic minorities that live in the province.

Traditional Han culture is the lifeblood of Blessing and Longevity Park, which was created to convey the concepts of peace and harmony to visitors.

(China Daily 04/10/2008 page20)